Having gone consecutive games without losing for just the second time this season, Fiorentina head north to Juventus for their last game of 2020. In 182 competitive matches, the Viola hold a W39 D57 L86 record, including a mark of W1 D1 L8 over their past 10 meetings. They haven’t won against the Juvenuts in Turin since 2008 (everyone do the Papa Waigo), so it’s not too hard to see why expectations are, hm, muted.
The match will be played on Tuesday, 22 December 2020, at 7:45 PM GMT/2:45 PM EST at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. The forecast calls for a day that’s cold with scattered clouds, no wind, no rain, and a 100% chance of idiocy from C******o R*****o fanboys, so bundle yourself up in advance.
While it’s a bit absurd for Fiorentina to laugh at anyone’s position in the table, we can all quietly chuckle about Juve’s. Sitting third in the league with 27 points, 4 behind leaders AC Milan, it’s easy to think that their stranglehold on Serie A is broken, especially after draws against Crotone and Benevento this year, but they’ve won their Champions League group, just thumped Parma 0-4, and still have more talent than anyone else in Italy, so the strong possibility of a second half push should sober all of us up for now, especially since the xG table has the pretty much even with the Rossoneri.
Manager Andrea Pirlo (still weird to write) is missing CB Merih Demiral (thigh) but should have the rest of his squad available. He’s likely to rotate things from that blowout against the Crociati on Saturday as this team has played a punishing 9 games in the past month. That means that Federico Chiesa (sigh), Juan Cuadrado (sigh), Alvaro Morata, and Adrien Rabiot are all likely to step into Pirlo’s 4-4-2. Despite that collection of talent going forward, it’s worth remembering that Juve have the division’s best defensive record (10 goals conceded in 13 games), so it’s not really the attack that’s carrying them right now.
Pirlo wants his team to attack by keeping the ball and spreading the pitch as wide as possible. The Bianconeri build from the back and are patient in possession, probing for space, but focus on keeping the ball moving forward. They’ve largely struggled against deep defensive blocks (their failure to beat newly promoted Crotone and Benevento is telling), so expect Fiorentina to sit very deep and deny space in behind, which could force their hosts to, well, do a Viola and just pass the ball around the box without creating much space. The secret, of course, is denying those vertical passes without sitting so deep that they put themselves under siege, particularly with R*****o’s aerial prowess. While Barcelona showed that a high press can also discomfit this outfit, the Blaugrana are just so much better than Fiorentina that it’s probably not worth trying to replicate that approach.
Two draws in a row feels like progress from this incredibly frustrating Fiorentina side, but a bad performance here would likely erase those ambivalent-to-positive vibes entirely. After all, this is a team in 16th place with 11 points from 13 games (leading Spezia on goal difference) that’s collected 3 points from 5 matches, hasn’t kept a clean sheet in over a month, and hasn’t tasted victory in Serie A since October.
Manager Cesare Prandelli may still be without CM Alfred Duncan (leg) but should have the rest of the squad available. Much like their opponents, the Viola will be on their third game of the week, so San Cesare may want to change things up. Cristiano Biraghi is sure to return, but we could see Erick Pulgar and Christian Kouamé as well, with Franck Ribery possibly ready to drop out after some physically grueling runs in the past few days, especially since pace is likely to be one of Prandelli’s emphases.
Like I said above, Fiorentina are going to give up on keeping the ball (Juve have the second-highest rate in the league) and focus on hitting on the break. If Gaetano Castrovilli and Sofyan Amrabat can drive forward with the ball from midfield, that could open things higher up the pitch. Too, if there was ever a game to feature Kouamé’s speed, this is it. Basically, the Viola are going to play like a stereotypical relegation candidate going to a top team’s stadium, because, well, yeah. That’s exactly what’s happening.
How to watch
TV: Unlikely, but check the full international television listings here if you want.
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